Jack Sock has ensured all four first-time qualifiers by right, marked their debuts with a victory at the Nitto ATP Finals – despite being woken up at 4am by a fire alarm at his hotel on the morning of it.
The American defeated Marin Cilic 5-7 6-2 7-6 to follow triumphant debutants Alexander Zverev, David Goffin, who played as an alternate for the injured Gael Monfils last year, and Grigor Dimitrov.
He was clearly alert even though the unwanted wake-up call left him having to shiver in the cold outside his temporary abode alongside fellow residents and 02 competitors Rafa Nadal,who had just withdrawn from the event through injury, and Dominic Thiem.
But I am not surprising myself. I wouldn’t be out there competing if I didn’t think I could give myself to win tournaments. I’m 25. I’m not the new kid on the block anymore. It’s my time. Jack Sock
Sock, 25, said: “It was probably one of the most annoying noises I’ve ever heard in my entire life. We’re on the second floor of the hotel. I guess whatever happened in the hotel, was on the second floor.
“From what the workers at the hotel said, the location of your room is how loud the alarm is. We are right there, kind of right in the centre of it. It literally sounded like the intercom I thought was in our room. Super loud, super annoying.
“It went on for a while. At first I didn’t know if it was a test or whatever. Then I realised it was 4am, so I hoped it wasn’t just a test from the hotel. I went outside, saw Rafa, saw Dominic. Everyone was all bundled up, freezing cold, just wanting to get back inside.
“The whole thing was probably 15 minutes of miserableness.”
Sock, watched by dad Larry, went in attempting to become the first American to win the singles tournament since Pete Sampras defeated Andre Agassi in 1999. And the first of his compatriots to win at the 02.
The US No.1, the first from his country to play the season’s finale since Mardy Fish six years ago and Andy Roddick 12 months before that.
Sock said: “Does that interest me? Not really. I really don’t care about that stuff. The No.1 American, first American to do this since whenever. I just go out and have fun, compete. The stats and all that are what they are.
“I’ve been talking to Mardy since I’ve been here. He told me to enjoy it. I know he was the last guy here. I didn’t even know if he’d won a match or not. That’s news to me.
“But I am not surprising myself. I wouldn’t be out there competing if I didn’t think I could give myself to win tournaments. I’m 25. I’m not the new kid on the block anymore. It’s my time.”
Sock was unable to improve on the poor showing of Americans at the tournament in recent years in his opening encounter on Sunday when he lost to Roger Federer.
And it seemed the Stars and Stripes duck would end when Sock broke the Croatian sixth seed in the opening game.
But it was a false dawn as Cilic broke back immediately and clinched the set on the Sock serve with a sweet forehand after the American had saved one of three set points. Sock responded by blasting a ball into the crowd and receiving a code violation (smiling afterwards: “Souvenir for a fan way up there!”).
Sock tasted blood at the start of the second as he broke Cilic and held. His opponent then held but, after surviving two break points, the eighth seed romped to a 5-1 lead before levelling the match.
Cilic did not appear to be bending and broke Sock on route to taking a 3-0 lead in the third set.
But the Nebraskan hit back, broke the Croatian and hauled himself back to 3-3 and ploughed on to take the tussle on his first match point in the tie-break as Cilic hit a backhand long. It had taken 2hr.27min.
Cilic, who has now lost two of two matches, said: “Was I jaded? Yes and no. It has been this long stretch. These last couple months, I’ve played a lot of matches as well. Still it didn’t bother me much. I was quite motivated in both matches. I felt that I played well. I know that I wasn’t playing the best, especially in those critical moments I was not coming up with some great shots. It is frustrating, absolutely.
“I think Jack is playing good. He had a really nice season, especially the beginning, now the end. We played now couple times. Once was five-setter, now came to the tiebreaker. It could have went also to my side. But overall I think he’s playing good tennis, quite aggressive. When he’s playing well, he’s definitely very dangerous.”